Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New lawyers - remember to check your local court rules

When I was in law school, our civil procedure professor never mentioned a little something called "the local rules" of practice.  So it wasn't until my first job as an associate that I learned the hard way such a thing exists (law school also didn't teach me about the existence of state regs or where to find them but that's a story for another day). Don't make the same mistake that so many greenhorn lawyers do by overlooking the local rules of civil procedure (also make a mental note to find out whether the judge you'll be appearing before follows any particular rules or practices specific to her courtroom. A quick call to the clerk's office should help with that).

The wonderfully practical blog Lawyerist summarizes the advice thusly under the title Three Things You’re Doing in Court that Make You Look Bad.

There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Each has its own local rules, motions procedures, and general policies.In addition, each county has numerous judges, who also each have their own way of doing things. The same is true of almost any state in the country. With so many small variations and local policies, it’s impossible to know how things are done in a place you’ve never been. Moreover, judges in one place don’t want to hear about how things are done elsewhere.

Luckily, there are two incredibly easy steps you can take to fix this problem. First, use the internet. It’s the twenty first century. Most local rules are online and accessible for free. But knowing the local rules only gets you halfway there. You also have to know about the judge you will be in front of. So either call the judge’s chambers and ask the staff, or contact the local bar association to get the name of a local attorney you can ask.

What are the other common ways you can shoot yourself in the proverbial briefcase during your first court appearance? You'll just have to click here to find out.



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